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October 16, 2009

Starbucks' new instant coffee: any good?

StarbucksInstant.JPGWhen I was in Evanston, Il. recently I saw a taste test of Via, the new Starbucks instant coffee, going on at all the Starbucks outlets. (It was test-marketed in Chicago, Seattle and London first.)

I was mildly curious, but not enough to try it, even though it's supposed to "transform the coffee industry." I remember when most folks drank Tasters Choice or some other instant coffee during the day unless they were real coffee aficionados, and I'm not particularly anxious to go back to those days. ...

It simply amazes me that Starbucks would be the one to come out with an instant coffee.

Now that the company has gotten just about everyone on board with thinking that you can't buy a good cup of coffee for less than $3, why undercut that? Surely people will stop going to Starbucks before work if they can make a great instant cup of coffee at home. Via is expensive at about $1 a cup, but not as expensive as a cup of brewed coffee at a Starbucks outlet.

I would love to know whether Via tastes as good as its name is a marketing gimmick. I totally missed it if the taste test went on around here, but maybe I should do a poll to see what coffee drinkers who have tried it think.

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:52 PM | | Comments (28)


Your post reminded me that I had three of these in my desk drawer ... just whipped up a cup and - you know, it's not half bad. It reminds me of a good, strong cup of brewed coffee. Not the best cup I've ever had, but more than adequate in a pinch.

Hi EL so I was sitting here at my desk thinking that it's been a long rainy day for me, saw this post and you reminded me that I picked up a little sample package that I've been carrying around in my purse now for 5 days. So I pulled it out and whipped it up. It's really not bad at all. I wouldn't choose to drink it as my regular cup o'joe but it will definitely work in a pinch!

wow Dave, that was strange, my comment was posting while yours was... I like your style- "in a pinch"

Do you guys work in the same office??

I've had some sample packets waiting at home, ostensibly to take when I go camping (must. have. coffee. every. day.), but I haven't been camping at all this year. This weekend looked like it would be the one, until it didn't. (Thanks, rain.)

So now I have untested, possibly stale/bitter Via at home. Mmm.

Haha, Kristen ... those comments are eerily similar! Too funny, right down to 'whipped up' and 'in a pinch.' Is it possible that Starbucks Via is some Orwellian ploy to make us all think and write alike?

Mind control at work here! It's freebase coffee!

I tried the coffee at a Starbucks once.

No thanks.

I'm not a big fan of Starbucks anyway, so I probably wouldn't want their instant.

How quickly they forget...

That's a hoot. I searched the Sun site to see if the paper had written about it while I was away, but it never occurred to me I had. EL

@ Multimedia Editor(ish) Mary

FYI- all packets of VIA are stamped with an expiration date. Most of which are about 9 months from now (well into 2010). So you still have plenty of time to taste- will not go stale.

And Elizabeth- you should stop in your local Starbucks. The "taste challenge" is concluded but more locations across the country are still offering continuous sampling and coupons, while supplies last.

Out to eat? Keep a couple in your purse or pocket and have a Starbucks cup of coffee with dessert- without ever leaving the restuarant.

Never thought about that now when I go out to eat Im thinking I don't like this coffee if I could just have a shot of starbucks expresso in it it will b okay now all the rest taste watered down to me. So I'll take a via in purse and make it right.

It would seem that approaching the new product from the standpoint that it's some type of liquid form of hot caffeine, that it passes the test.

Specifics such as is it good are incidental.

I tried it and it is pretty bad. It tastes like stale drip coffee that has been left on the warmer all day.

Baltimore has so many local coffee houses that offer excellent coffee, so I've only been to Starbucks once. The coffee tasted over-roasted. My favorite place is Jay's at the Towson library.

"I tried it and it is pretty bad. It tastes like stale drip coffee that has been left on the warmer all day."

Isn't that how Starbucks is supposed to taste? Maybe they did get it right then.. in that regard at least.

i think that VIA is is such a great option for when we can't get back to a starbucks store for another cup of coffee in the afternoon. it's just like they advertise: never be without great coffee. if i have the choice of going to starbucks, by all means, i want to see my baristas--but if i can't make it (or i'm at my in-laws and they don't brew coffee, and if they do its folgers) VIA is great!

The pro-VIA comments are suspiciously one-note. I smell a locally deployed corporate shill campaign.

Actually, Elizabeth, it's not a bad to re-visit the topic. Probably more people have tried Via since your first post, so now you can get a better read on it. As for me, as long as I can find reasonably good beans to grind myself, I'm not buying anybody's instant. But then, I'm not a big Starbucks fan--always tastes burned to me.

I'm with AK on this. The people who liked it are suspiciously singing one song.

I think AK and Lissa got it right , as least as to "livin' la VIA loca", who, according to a Google search, works at a Starbucks shop (location not disclosed) and is intent on pushing the instant product on unsuspecting customers.

Seriously, Starbucks' REGULAR coffee isn't even that good. It's just well-marketed and ubiquitous. Now a lesser breed of beast? Sell your stock. they've jumped the shark.

It is a shame. It was Starbucks coffee, via mail order, that introduced me to life beyond Maxwell House. Coffee went from a necessary drug to a delight.

I moved beyond Starbucks to other specialty roasters, then to roasting my own fairly quickly. But it was Starbucks that turned me into the single origin roasting coffee snob I am today.

Unfortunately, expansion changed them from a fairly ethical small business with a decent product to a huge, unethical conglomerate with a bad product.

Shilling glorified Sanka on a restaurant blog in a second tier city...Bill Peet must really regret the day he taught Zev and Jerry to roast.

Less Via, More POSTUM!

Since my evil employer won't sell coffee (well, real coffee anyway, you can get vending drek), I think I shall get some Via. I will test drive it for a while and see if waiting until The Man deigns to open the cafeteria is a better option.

Guess I better stock up on some Splenda and half and half too.

oops left out the EE (evil employer) opens at 6:30 at one place and 7 at the other. I get to work at 5.

The Man is the head of "the establishment" put in place to "bring us down." Though nobody has physically seen "the man," he is assumed to be a male caucasian between the ages of 25-40 and is rumored to have a substantial amount of acquired wealth, presumably acquired by exploiting those whom his "establishment" is "keeping down."

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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